No commercial activities within 500 metres of Taj Mahal

The Supreme Court has ordered the Agra Development Authority to immediately stop all commercial activities within a radius of 500 meters from the peripheral wall of the Taj Mahal. A bench of judges Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka told the Agra Development Authority to ensure compliance with their order.

The High Court was hearing an application seeking to have the authorities ban commercial activities within the 500-meter radius of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The 500m radius of the 17th-century white marble mausoleum is a no-build zone. In addition, there are also strict regulations on vehicular circulation around the monument. The burning of wood near the monument and municipal solid waste and agricultural waste in the entire area is also prohibited.

The request was submitted by a group of store owners who had been assigned an area outside the 500-meter radius to run their businesses. They told the court that illegal business activities are taking place near the Taj Mahal, a severe violation of previous high court orders.

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The Supreme Court says that in its order dated June 3, 2022, one kilometre area around the protected areas was declared as ‘No Development Zone, but at the same time, the court had also said in its decision that in all cases such may not be possible. There are some specific examples of this like Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Guindy National Park.

Attorney M.C. Dhingra who appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs implored the court to issue orders to cease all such operations and to ask the authorities to ensure strict compliance with the orders. Amicus Curiae in the matter, lead counsel A.D.N. Rao also supported the proposal that it would be in the monument’s interest to issue instructions to stop all commercial activities occurring in the vicinity of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In previous hearings, the Superior Court approved several orders in the public interest litigation filed by environmental lawyer M. C. Mehta in 1984, in order to strike a balance between the developments occurring in the area and the protection of the large mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz in 1631.

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The Supreme Court has allowed the diversion of 397.8863 hectares of forest area for the construction of Sunni Dam Hydroelectric Project in Himachal Pradesh. According to the court, this diversion of forest land will be done subject to the conditions laid down in the environment and forest clearance.

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